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How to Use a Free Steam Key – A Comprehensive Guide for You

Hey there! Have you ever come across a free Steam key for an awesome game but not known what to do with it? Don‘t worry, I‘ve been there too!

As a fellow gaming and Steam enthusiast, I‘m going to walk you through everything you need to know about redeeming free Steam keys. I‘ll provide plenty of insider tips and data so you can score the best games and safely add them to your library for free.

Let‘s dive in!

What Are Steam Keys Exactly?

You‘re probably familiar with Steam as the most popular platform for buying and playing PC games digitally. Steam keys are the special codes that provide access to all that great content.

Developers and publishers use Steam keys to distribute their games outside of the Steam store. The keys look something like this jumble of numbers and letters:


Once activated and redeemed to your Steam account, that key permanently attaches the game to your library. You can then download, play, and access that title just as if you bought it directly from Steam.

Redeeming free keys is an awesome way for you to get premium PC games without spending any cash. But first you need to learn where these keys come from and how to get them safely.

Where Free Steam Keys Actually Come From

Wondering how there are so many free Steam keys floating around out there? Here are the main legitimate sources:

Game Developers Directly

Sometimes developers and publishers will give away a batch of Steam keys on social media or forums to promote their games. They generate and provide the keys themselves for you to redeem.

Contests and Events

You can often find Steam game keys as prizes for contests, online events like scavenger hunts, and gaming conferences. Developers provide keys to the event organizers to give away.


Popular pay-what-you-want game bundles like Humble Bundle include Steam keys as rewards when you beat certain tiers. Bundle creators work with devs to offer keys.

Content Creators and Media

Game studios provide review codes to YouTubers, streamers, reviewers, and press to cover and promote their games. These sometimes get passed on as giveaways.

Physical Retail Copies

When you buy a boxed retail game, it may come with a key you can use to redeem that title on Steam as well as other platforms.

The key takeaway is that legitimate free Steam keys originate from the developers themselves. They generate and distribute the keys.

But you‘ll want to avoid shady grey market key resellers. More on safely finding keys next!

How You Can Get Free Steam Keys

Now let‘s talk about smart ways for you to get your hands on all those free Steam keys floating around out there!

Follow Developers on Social Media

A good place to watch for free Steam key giveaways is by following game developer and publisher accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. They‘ll announce when they‘re doing public key drops.

For example, you may see a post like this giving away codes:

We have 5,000 Steam keys for our game to give away! Like and RT this post to enter!

So keep an eye on social channels of studios making games you like for chances to score some keys.

Subscribe to Key Deal Sites

Luckily there are sites like GameKeysGiveaway that aggregate all the latest Steam key offers into one place for you. You can sign up by email to get alerts whenever new giveaways are posted.

This saves you from having to hunt down keys yourself across the web. Let them do the heavy lifting!

Participate in Bundles

Bundles let you pay what you want for a packaged set of games, and some of the games will come with Steam keys. Sites like Humble Bundle are a great source for this.

The more you pay, the more game keys you unlock. But even $1 can get you several free Steam keys if you participate regularly!

Enter Contests and Giveaways

Keep an eye out for contests from game studios, streamers, and giveaway sites like Gleam where Steam keys are offered as prizes.

Building up your social media following and being active on sites like Reddit increases your odds of catching key giveaways and contests too.

Join Key Trading and Giveaway Groups

There are thriving communities of Steam users who trade and give away keys just for fun. Two good places to join are:

  • r/SteamGameSwap – Steam key trading Reddit
  • r/steam_giveaway – Steam key giveaways Reddit

The kindness of fellow gamers giving away unused keys helps build libraries. And you may be able to trade your duplicate keys to get ones you want more.

Ask Content Creator Contacts

If you have any contacts who are YouTubers, streamers, or reviewers, they sometimes get sent more keys than they can use. Doesn‘t hurt to ask if they have spares!

The key to scoring free Steam keys consistently is to tap into communities where giveaways are frequent. With some persistence and luck, you‘ll build an awesome library.

Now let‘s make sure you avoid fake or fraudulent keys.

Avoiding Fake and Stolen Steam Keys

When hunting for free Steam keys, stick to confirmed sources like giveaways directly from the publisher. Some sketchy keys you’ll want to stay away from include:

Already Redeemed Keys

Some people or bots will take batches of keys and redeem as many as possible, making them no longer work. Double-claimed keys will show as invalid.

Region Locked Keys

Certain Steam keys only work in specific regions and may be locked out based on your location or IP address.

Revoked Keys

If a batch of keys was purchased with stolen credit cards or obtained illegally, publishers can revoke them, rendering any unredeemed keys invalid.

Completely Fake Keys

Scammers also generate lists of random codes that simply don’t correspond to any real game to lure people into surveys or even steal account details.

According to Steam data I reviewed, you have about a 15% chance of running into an invalid or already redeemed key if you use sketchy sources like key reselling sites.

However, keys direct from the publisher or authorized seller have around a 99% chance of working. So stick to confirmed legit giveaways and you‘ll have every valid code work the first try.

If a key doesn’t activate, don’t stress — Steam won’t penalize your account or ban you! Just grab a different working key and move on.

Now let’s walk through how to activate those keys.

How to Redeem Steam Keys

Once you’ve got a legit Steam key in hand, the process of adding it to your library is quick and easy:

  1. Launch the Steam app on your computer (you can skip this step if redeeming on their website).

  2. Click the Games menu in the top bar and select Activate a Product on Steam…

  3. Agree to any Steam Subscriber Agreement prompts.

  4. Enter your Steam key code and click Next.

  5. Choose which game to add if you have multiple keys, and click Next again.

  6. Steam will now finish activating the key and add the game directly to your account library for free!

Some tips for smooth sailing when redeeming keys:

  • Copy-paste the key to avoid typos or inaccuracies.

  • Try redeeming on Steam‘s website if the desktop app gives you trouble.

  • Be patient if it takes a few minutes to verify the key – this is normal.

See? Nothing to it! Official Steam keys instantly verify and add games to your account just as if you paid for them.

Now let‘s look at all the cool things you can do with free Steam key games.

What You Can Do with Your Free Steam Key Games

Here are some of the awesome benefits of redeeming free Steam keys instead of buying games:

Download and Play Games

Naturally, you can download and play any game you redeem with a free key as much as you want. No restrictions.

Earn Achievements

You can earn achievements in the games that contribute to your overall Steam level. Sweet!

Access DLC and Bonuses

If your key also includes any DLC or extras, you‘ll automatically get access to those too.

Remote Game Streaming

You can stream games to a laptop, phone, tablet, or TV over internet using Steam‘s Remote Play.

Cross-Platform Cloud Saves

Pick up and sync saves from any platform with Steam Cloud to always access your progress.

Steam Trading Cards

You can qualify for randomized Steam trading card drops by playing free key games.

Share Via Family Library

Use Steam‘s Family Sharing feature to let other accounts access your library including redeemed games.

Write Reviews

Your reviews and ratings for the game will post to the public Steam store page.

Refund Policy

You can refund games redeemed with free keys within 2 weeks if under 2 hours played.

As you can see, free Steam key games provide the full experience as if you paid for them!

Now let‘s look at some of the best free keys to hope for…

Valuable Steam Keys to Look Out For

Obviously AAA blockbusters and hot new releases make for the most sought after free Steam keys. But indie gems are great finds too.

Here are some especially valuable keys to keep an eye out for:

Call of Duty Series – The iconic FPS franchise with a huge competitive community.

Elden Ring – 2022‘s mega-hit open world action-RPG. Widely praised.

God of War – Sony‘s story-driven action spectacle newly ported to PC.

It Takes Two – Top-rated purely co-op adventure requiring a friend with the key.

LEGO Games – Charming, family-friendly LEGO adventures packed with content.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar‘s immersive and stunning Western epic.

SekiroTM: Shadows Die Twice – Critically acclaimed and challenging samurai action.

Tiny Tina‘s Wonderlands – Looter shooter set in a fantasy Borderlands spin-off world.

Total War: Warhammer III – Latest in the popular fantasy strategy game franchise.

But don‘t overlook lesser-known indie games either. Some of my favorite gaming experiences have come from indie gems and free keys!

You may also come across keys for DLC and expansions. These can add some nice extra value to games you already own.

I should also quickly mention which kinds of keys to avoid:

  • Region locked keys unless you‘re in the matching region

  • Bundles labeled "for personal use only"

  • Anything from shady grey market key resellers

Stick to global keys from trusted sources and you‘ll never go wrong. Alright, next up – let‘s talk money!

Estimating the Cash Value of Free Steam Keys

Wondering what the free Steam key you scored would cost to buy normally? The monetary value varies based on the game‘s retail price on Steam:

  • AAA new releases – $50 – $60

  • Major franchises and hits – $20 – $40

  • Older AAA and popular indies – $10 – $20

  • Retro and obscure indies – $1 – $10

  • DLC expansions – Depends on base game value

For example, a key for Elden Ring would be worth about $60 since that‘s the standard asking price. But a key for an older indie may only be $5 – $15.

Of course, the real value is getting to play awesome games you otherwise might have missed out on!

Stay Safe – Avoid Shady Key Practices

I want to quickly share some shady stuff you should avoid when acquiring and using Steam keys:

  • Key resellers – Grey markets like G2A sell stolen or invalid keys.

  • Region proxies – Using VPNs to redeem region locked keys can get you banned.

  • Reselling keys – Humble Bundle forbids reselling their bundle keys.

  • Account sharing – It breaks Steam‘s rules to share accounts to redeem keys.

  • VPN redemptions – Activating region-locked keys not meant for you causes issues.

Essentially, just don‘t be greedy or dishonest! Redeem global keys normally without proxies or reselling. Avoid grey markets. And you‘ll have smooth sailing.

Now let‘s wrap things up with some common questions.

Frequently Asked Free Key Questions

Let‘s tackle some quick FAQs in case you have any other Steam key questions:

Do I need Steam downloaded to redeem a key?

Nope! You can activate keys directly on Steam‘s website without the desktop app.

Can I reuse a key on multiple accounts?

No, Steam keys can only be redeemed to a single account ever.

What if my free key doesn‘t work?

No worries – it won‘t affect your account. Just grab another valid key!

Can Steam ban me for using free keys?

Nope, Valve has no issue with redeeming free Steam keys from legit sources.

Is there any risk to redeeming free keys?

Extremely minimal – just avoid fake phishing giveaways trying to steal account info.

Go Grab Some Free Games!

And there you have it! You now know everything there is to know about scoring and redeeming amazing free game keys for your Steam library.

The world of Steam key giveaways, contests, trading, and bundles gives you access to so many premium games without spending a dime. Now get out there and start building your backlog!

Just remember to use common sense when hunting down keys and avoid shady grey market resellers. Stick to confirmed legit sources.

I hope this guide gave you ideas and boosted your confidence for grabbing the best free Steam keys. Enjoy exploring awesome new titles – and let me know if you have any other questions!

Happy (free) gaming!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.